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UC: University of Cuts

news_Blumenthal2UCSC faces a big blow from the governor’s new state budget
On what UC President Mark Yudof called a “sad day for California,” Gov. Jerry Brown announced his new state budget on Jan. 10 and a subsequent $1.4 billion budget cut to higher education—$500 million from the UCs and state schools, respectively, and $400,000 from community colleges.

“This is a historic marker of disinvestment in public education that should be disturbing to all Californians—whether they have family members attending a UC campus or not,” Yudof said in an open letter to the UC community.

As a result, Yudof will assign a reduction figure to each of the UC campuses. The schools have until March 1 to outline how they will achieve the amount in reductions. As of press time, UC Santa Cruz spokesman Jim Burns says the school has not received its reduction amount but that they expect it to be between $15 and $30 million. While they wait, he says the administration is “just now beginning the process for determining how the campus will make these reductions.”

Tiffany Dena Loftin, Student Union Assembly chair and spokesperson for the student body, expects the student reaction—which has been “disappointed” so far—to intensify once a dollar amount is put to the picture and specific services are slated for cuts.

A fourth year double major in American and political studies, Loftin says she has watched the school take a turn for the worse in her time as a Banana Slug: she’s seen faculty laid off, classes and buses become overcrowded, and her student fees grow by $500. “I have had, minimum, two friends a quarter drop out, move, or take a leave of absence because they couldn’t afford to be here and owed the school money,” she says.

Loftin’s also seen departments reorganized and majors suspended—including one of her own, American studies. This was all before the arrival of Gov. Brown’s new budget proposal, which she feels makes a clear case for the state’s disregard for education. “The state doesn’t believe education is a priority nor has it demonstrated that it believes in the future of all children in California,” she says.

Overall, Loftin says it’s a discouraging time to be a university student. “In my generation, I don’t believe that there is hope anymore to shift the discourse of education. Student organizers are getting tired of losing and feeling unheard,” says Loftin. She adds that this won’t stop them from making noise about this round of cuts. “Plenty of actions and direct action organizing are coming from what has happened,” she says. “Although we are tired, I believe education is a right, not a privilege.”

But higher education was not the only victim in the governor’s budget: it was part of $12.5 billion in reductions aimed to chip away at the state’s $25.4 billion deficit.

Assemblymember Bill Monning (D-27th District) hopes his constituents can put the cuts in perspective. “If the state were to close all of its prisons and shut down higher education altogether, that would save $19 billion,” he says. After that, he adds, we’d still be several billion short.

“If you look at the cuts to In Home Support Services, adult help day care, [etc] these are dramatically huge cuts as a percentage of the budget,” Monning says. “These are people with disabilities. When you look at the social and human services cuts and then at [cuts to] higher education … I think most people in higher education wouldn’t prefer higher cuts to those sectors to protect their own.”

Monning says that while he plans to lobby Sacramento for reinstated investment in higher education, he agrees that Gov. Brown’s “tough budget for tough times” is the responsible, albeit painful, route to go.

“I believe strongly that higher education is the on-ramp to a future economy for this state, for education, arts, alternative energy, and I will continue to champion higher education,” he says. “But we are in a moment in California’s history where we are being asked to continue or deepen the pain [of cuts], balanced by the prospect of a plan designed to move us all forward. Californians need to understand the thought the governor has given to this budget.”

Brown’s budget proposal banks on California voters to pass an extension of existing personal income tax increments, sales tax and vehicle license fees. If these measures fail at the ballot box in June, the proposed budget cuts will double—taking the situation from bad to worse.

“[The budget] is a long-term strategy, and its success depends on the people of California supporting the extension of the revenues and enduring some short-term pain,” says Monning.

He encourages college students and community members concerned about higher education funding to campaign for the upcoming ballot measures. “Be part of the organizing campaign statewide to talk with voters about the importance of supporting the extension of the existing taxes [and fees],” he says.

UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal remains optimistic about the school’s ability to persevere in the face of diminishing funds. “As a campus, we have weathered deep cuts before, always managing to preserve the integrity of this beloved institution,” Blumenthal wrote in a Jan. 10 letter to the campus community. “Our collective efforts are essential to our ability to make these reductions without eroding our accessibility, distinctiveness, and excellence.”

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